The Google Three, Italy and Silvio Berlusconi: the web may be global but sovereign states still make up the rules

God is everywhere, at least according to those who believe in Him. So is the internet: it’s global, ubiquitous and has – according to its evangelists – slipped the surly bonds of nation states. The trouble is that those who use it have to reside within legal jurisdictions.And therein lies a big problem, one aspect of which surfaced last week, in Italy, where a judge handed out prison sentences to three senior US-based Google executives for “violating privacy” by allowing a video showing a handicapped Italian schoolboy being physically and verbally abused to be posted online.

Whatever the outcome, though, the legal spat is just the latest symptom of an underlying structural problem, namely the mismatch between the internet’s global reach and the fact that we live in a world of sovereign states.

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